SGR: Congress Working to Preserve Skilled Home Healthcare Services for the Medicare Program's Oldest, Poorest, Sickest Beneficiaries Relief and reassessment of the ACA Medicare home health cut under consideration due to the cut's impact on vulnerable seniors, women and small business jobs

WASHINGTON, March 26, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Home health leaders today expressed deep gratitude to Congressional leaders who are considering a home health rebasing relief and reassessment provision for potential inclusion in the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) legislative package. 

The provision focuses on the 4-year, 14 percent cut to Medicare home health funding that was implemented on January 1.  The provision under consideration would provide targeted relief to the 3.5 million vulnerable seniors who depend on home health and the 1.1 million healthcare professionals who serve them.  The provision would also direct the Secretary to reassess this cut by analyzing its impact on small businesses and underserved areas, among other key elements, and report her findings to Congress.  Importantly, the relief and reassessment provision is also fully self-funded and would contribute net savings to the SGR package.

Among the factors informing this consideration are the following:

The Medicare home health cut disproportionately impacts women.
According to recent data analyses, more than 60 percent of all Medicare home health beneficiaries are women.  In addition, an estimated 90 percent of registered nurses, occupational therapists, and home health aides – professionals that are commonly employed by home health agencies – are women, and an estimated 75 percent of all the family caregivers who manage their elderly relatives' care are women. 

The Medicare home health cut directly impacts the Medicare program's most vulnerable seniors.
Recent data analyses also reveal that Medicare home health beneficiaries are older, sicker, poorer, and more likely to be members of ethnic or racial minority populations than all other Medicare beneficiaries.  In addition, the analysis finds that Medicare home health patients have greater functional limitations and disabling conditions and have greater difficulty completing routine tasks than all other Medicare beneficiaries. 

The Medicare home health rebasing cut is already resulting in record job losses.
According to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3,800 home health jobs were lost in February alone – the largest single job loss for the sector in more than a decade.  All told, the home health sector lost more than 7,000 jobs in just the first 90 days following the unveiling of this 4-year 14 percent cut.  It is estimated that more than 498,000 jobs are at risk due to the Administration's admission that "40 percent" of all home health agencies nationwide will be driven into net loss as a result of the rebasing cut.

Leaders in Congress have expressed their concern.
More than 200 lawmakers in both the House and Senate signed bipartisan letters to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) cautioning against rebasing Medicare home health payments at the full 14 percent due to serious concerns that such a cut would impact access to care for vulnerable seniors, especially in rural and underserved areas.

Senior advocates and healthcare stakeholders are rallying around this issue.
Senior advocates and healthcare stakeholders alike cautioned that severe cuts to home health will directly impact millions of homebound seniors and disabled Americans by limiting their access to the clinically advanced, cost effective home healthcare they need and prefer.

News outlets have identified the home health cut as a politically volatile issue in the 2014 mid-term elections.
Recent coverage on FOX News focuses on the political vulnerability that some candidates could experience as a result of the Obama Administration's decision to drastically cut Medicare funding for home health services.  Other national news outlets including Businessweek and the Washington Examiner have also reported on the potential consequences of the rebasing cut, including limited patient access and job loss. 

"We are deeply grateful to leading Members of Congress for considering home health rebasing relief and reassessment as part of the SGR package," said Eric Berger, CEO of the Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare.  "The 14 percent home health rebasing cut poses a dire threat to millions of vulnerable seniors, women, and working Americans.  As a result, Congress' work on home health rebasing relief and reassessment is of enormous importance to so many people across the U.S."

The Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare was established to assist government officials in ensuring access to skilled home healthcare services for seniors and disabled Americans. Representing community- and hospital-based home healthcare agencies across the United States, the Partnership is dedicated to developing innovative reforms to improve the quality, efficiency and integrity of home healthcare. To learn more, visit www.homehealth4america.org. To join the home healthcare policy conversation, connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and our blog

SOURCE Partnership for Quality Home Healthcare



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